The transition to a Circular Economy is under way. It is just over 8 years now since the European Commission published its Circular Economy Action Plan. In that time, we have had a second Action Plan and a whole swathe of legislation and regulations that have sought to drive the transition. The new Environmental Social Governance (ESG) reporting requirements for businesses come into effect for 2024 reporting, and with a specific focus on Circular Economy, the interest in applying circular practices to existing business models has amplified.

As understanding of the concept spreads, the next stage is to ensure the financing of the change is adequate. The good news is that many of the flagship EU funding programs now have dedicated spaces for Circular financing. These include Horizon 2020, the European Structural and Investment Funds, and the LIFE program.

Horizon Europe is a significant €95.5 billion research and innovation fund, with programmes running to 2027. The LIFE programme, also running to 2027 has one of its four dedicated sub programmes as Circular Economy, with total funds of over €5 billion. Although waste management is still a required element of Circularity, as evidenced by the Finnish LIFE funded CIRCWASTE project aimed at implementing the Finnish National Waste Plan, reuse is the focus of a London LIFE project called REPURPOSE focusing on fostering a culture of reuse in five housing estates in the British capital.

The Cohesion Policy of the EU and the Single Market Program can also be used to access funding that supports the transition to circularity both in practical terms and in terms of the cultural behavioural changes required. Additionally, as the lending arm of the EU, the European Investment Bank provides support for Circular Economy financing. It offers support in terms of financing, advice, and knowledge sharing. The EIB has an online portal at InvestEU Advisory Hub.

The first challenge in terms of financing is being aware of what is available. Secondly, how to apply, including understanding what are the most appropriate funds to apply for. Thirdly, the challenge is to ensure that funds that could be transformative are reaching the right actors in the economy. The European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform (ECESP) fulfils its role as a 'platform of platforms' in addressing these fundamental challenges. On the ECESP website, there are details of each of the programs mentioned here, with additional background information and links to application procedures. The best practice section of the ECESP website illustrates successes and lessons learnt from accessing circular economy funding.

As a joint initiative of the European Economic and Social Committee and the European Commission, the Stakeholder Platform links the highest level of policy-making with civil society networks active on the ground. It is a 'one-stop shop' for all things circular and an efficient space that gathers knowledge on the latest developments in financing the circular economy.




This article is also available in Italian / Questo articolo è disponibile anche in italiano


Image: Leonid Stern, Unsplash


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